Friday, October 30, 2009

Always Take the Goop.

Some things just always take you right back to your childhood:  the smell of play dough, a new box of Crayolas, riding your bike over crunching Fall leaves...and the feel of pumpkin goop sliming through your fingers!  There's something about those goopy globs of pumpkin pulp that just feels right.  This year I didn't get to put my hands in it, but I love that my kids got to.  And here they are, enjoying the goopy seeds:

We still haven't baked our seeds.  Every year, Brad goes to great lengths to clean them and bake them.  Every year each person eats one seed, decides they don't like them, and we end up throwing the rest out.  Maybe this year I will suggest that Brad pick out the 5 best seeds and just bake those.

I have nothing to add to this.

And in this one, Beth could not be pulled away from the goop long enough to take a picture.  I mean, really, now.  Goop or a picture?  Always take the goop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cheerfully back!

I'm back!  Did ya miss me and my riveting stories?  I thought not.  Anyway, back at it again after being heavily distracted with life rolling on in all its busyness.  Between a nasty cold, cheer competition preparation, last week of cheer practice, making a cheer season dvd, cheer games...there's a theme here on what has been dominating my time!  Throw in there being the popcorn lady at the middle school, making stacks of Passport maps, loving on a sweet bunch of ladies in my Bible study group who are going through some tough times, music-destination taxi-ing, doctor visits, boot lugging and general kid wrangling, mix it all together and you get the perfect recipe for just not wanting to be on this computer much.  So there you have it.  Now I'll go on to grip you with pictures of our sweet cheer girls in all their sweet Bear-ness!

Waiting to go into the big competition!

Warming up.

So the competition for Beth's squad was a mixed bag.  A very, very fun day for the girls, lots of friend time, watching great routines and doing lots and lots of cheering.  Their performance was a mess, a very perplexing mess, but they were such great sports about it all and I was so proud of how they handled themselves in the aftermath of that.  Those three and a half minutes did not define our season! 

Notice all the white poms on my boot?  A couple of the moms thought my boot needed to be dressed up for the occasion, and this is what they did to me.  And these are 2 girls I coached last year, and we all had injured right legs so they thought we needed a picture together!

And here is my sweet girl at our banquet last night.  It was so fun to celebrate such a great season with all the girls.  I love them dearly and will miss them!  So glad I got to take one of them home with me!

And here is the sweet Brenna with her squad.  They took 1st place in their division at competition and get to perform this weekend at the championship game!  Way to go, girls!

Jump for joy, Brenna!

Go Bears!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Email Woes and Stinky Toes

Here is a rather boring, (picture-less!) mid-week update on our wacky week.  It's a busy, busy week:  the last week of practices before the girls' cheer competition on Sunday.  Don't get me started with that.  There's a time and place for everything, this is not the time for cheer news.  No practice tonight, so I've given my brain the night off from cheering as well.

Our nutty email stopped working recently.  Internet connection was fine, but no mail would go out or come in.  Then I started getting phone messages that emails were coming back as undeliverable, and people were hot on my heels for our "new" address.  Brad reached a heavily accented customer service agent last night, only to find out that our email account had been suspended due to an extremely high volume of emails being sent.  Huh?  I instantly got hot-cheeked and tried to think back on the last week.  Had I been sleep walking and mailing out dozens of emails??  Then as I listened to more of Brad's end of the conversation, he asked how many emails it would take to have our account suspended.  There was a pause, followed by wide eyes and the disbelieving question, "THOUSANDS??"  Pause.  "Thousands per day?"  Brad looked at me, not accusingly, but with a very concerned look.  I shook my head no before he could form any thoughts of me sitting here for hours while I sent out forward after forward of crazy You Tube videos.  He was given another number to call.  That call resulted in a one-hour hold time, only to be connected to another heavily-accented customer service agent.  This new agent told us our account had been hacked into and was being used to send out "extremely high volumes of spam".  After complaints came in about "us", they suspended our account.  Three new passwords later, we are back in action.  Imagine what great things those hackers could accomplish if they'd use their brains and time for good!  It sure wasted an evening for Brad.

And I am slowly adapting to lugging this dumb boot around.  The foot is quite sore.  My hip and back are very sore from having my legs be different lengths.  I did wear a heeled-boot on my other foot today, and it helped a lot.  My most fashion-forward friend just sent me a message saying I looked "smooth" in my boot today.  Well, I'll be.  Smooth, huh?!  Perhaps this boot is not so bad afterall.  If that's what one has to do to look smooth, I guess one best close her mouth and continue gimping around. 

The other unexpected consequence of this boot?  Me thinks me stink.  Apparently my feet sweat a bit at night in this boot under the covers.  Ick.  It takes me back to my youth, where a smell oozed under the door of my brothers' bedroom that I haven't smelled since.  I feel quite embarrassed that it's now me.  Yes, I wash my feet daily.  Now twice daily.  Yes, I change my socks.  And my sheets.  So yesterday I started spraying my boot with Lysol when I take it off to take a shower.  Shower for me, Lysol for the boot.  It was the only thing I could find that was good for soft surfaces and wasn't targeting athlete's foot.  Me thinks the stink is gone.

And I've somewhat enjoyed my "bike rides" at the gym.  It's not quite the same, but I'm thankful to get my heart pumping.  It is a little cruel that the treadmills are right behind the bikes.  I could hear the rhythmic "thump, thump, thump" of people running behind me.  That's like passing a plate of straight-from-the-oven, gooey chocolate chip cookies under my nose and saying, "Just a smell.  That's all for you!"  Stinky toes I can pass on, but warm cookies?  Who can pass on that??  So I just pedaled faster, turned up my I-pod, and worked hard to not let myself sing out loud.

And the people-watching at the gym??  Amazing!  Bless them.  One elderly man had his finest blue jeans on, a tucked-in shirt, and brown leather dress shoes.  He sat himself on a bike and pp-e-dddd-aaaaa-lllll-ed.  Then his left foot took a turn.  But he was moving.  Bless him.  All shapes, sizes, and abilities were represented in that cardio room.  There's always the gals that climb aboard a bike that you sit back in and pull out their romance novel to read while they leisurely bike at a snail's pace.  And the buff, crazy-bodied people who run like someone's chasing them, then go hop on a spin bike and work even harder.  There's a reason they look like they do.  And the jocks that strut around the weight sets, admiring themselves in the mirror as they lift crazy amounts of weight.  Great people watching.  I highly recommend it.  It ranks right up there with airports.

If you have made it to the end of this, bless your heart.  That there is some serious rambling going on. 

One more ramble?  I just pulled a cake experiment out of the oven.  If it is a success with the family tonight I will share it with you on Monday!  It's a sort of accumulation of some recent posts.

Some blogs I read have a "Wordless Wednesday" post each week.  I guess, being the rebel that I am, this is my "Wordfull Wednesday" any case, happy Wednesday! 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Artichoke/Tomato Spaghetti

This is another recipe I tried from The Pioneer Woman, and it is spectacular!  The entire family loved it.  It makes a huge amount, which makes for great left-overs.  Hope you enjoy it!

Artichoke/Tomato Spaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 14.5 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts drained
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

1 pound thin spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.

Place drained pasta in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan. Pour sauce over the top. Add chopped chives. Toss together to combine.

Serve this with a green salad and some hot, buttered French bread and your mouth will be thanking you.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Flashback ~ Preschool Farm Fun

We have so many fond memories of the preschool years.  And this day, back in October 2002, was a typical preschool field trip day.  In so many ways.

Beth was just on the verge of turning 2.  Brenna creeping up on 5.  Beth was not a fan of the whole preschool thing when it was Brenna's turn.  On Brenna's first day of preschool I was a bit nervous for her, but excited to have that time with just Beth:  our first opportunity to have consistent one-on-one time since she'd arrived.  We spent some time getting Brenna happily involved and then it was time to leave.  Beth pitched a fit that both broke my heart and rattled the walls.  She SOBBED and reached out for Brenna, just repeating her name over and over.  She cried for a solid half hour after we left.  I'm sure it was a mix of missing her sister & friend and tremendous disappointment that we left Brenna in that toy-filled, kid-filled, color-filled, fun-filled place and she went to...the van with mom.  I was so glad that first day was done.  Two days later when it was time to go again, the sobbing returned.  Beth cried for a solid month every time we took Brenna to "school".  So there's the background...onto the field trip:

We spent a fun morning at a family farm making kick-the-can ice cream, making giant bubbles, climbing in a tree house, and all sorts of typical farm fun.  The great thing about the preschool field trips is that siblings were included!  Yeah for Beth, right?

Rolling the can to make ice cream.

Finally eating the ice cream!

Those kissable them!

Beth making the bubbles.

On the hay...trying to get a picture of both girls.  Brenna posing, Beth climbing.

So Beth was picked up and plopped next to Brenna for a picture.  This is the sobbing face I mentioned above.  She seemed to think any request to be still was totally unreasonable and worthy of a sob.

And then Brenna took a Fall swing on the rope!

Now these two best friends are once again in different schools.  Brenna leaves in the morning before Beth even wakes up.  There's no sobbing these days, and I'm so thankful for that.  But they still love being together, still best friends, and for that I am immeasurably thankful!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Inconvenience With a Loud Thump

Now this is getting a bit ridiculous.  A couple posts ago, I lamented about an appointment with my doctor that was less than ideal.  One "less than ideal" was telling me not to run for 3-4 weeks to let my knee heal.  Well, what I failed to mention to him (because how many complaints can one present to a doctor without sounding like one of "those" patients?) is that my foot has been giving me great grief for a couple months.  More pain than I've admitted to anyone, because that's like admitting there's something wrong.  I'm a big believer in ignoring discomfort. 

So instead of 3-4 weeks, I took off 6 days.  Only two of those days I went for a long walk.  And the pain was a bit much.  So a lightbulb went on in my dimly lit brain that maybe my knee pain and foot pain were related. 

A friend had mentioned a fabulous foot doctor she loved, so I called them up and was able to get in yesterday.  (And I did run on Tuesday, feeling a need to get one in.  Confession is good for the heart.)  I told the doctor that I hesitated to come in because I didn't want to be told not to run.  He said, "Oh, I'm not going to tell you that.  My job is to keep healthy, active people healthy and active.  So I'm just going to figure out how to keep you comfortable while you stay active." 

At this point, his nurse (with blue hair, I might add!) walked in and handed him my x-rays.  The doc stuck them in his light box, and said, "Oh.  Is it your right foot?  On the outside?"  When I told him it was, he walked over and pressed right on the magic spot.  "Is it right there?"  As if he couldn't tell from the flinch.  He then took back his words of not telling me to not run, and told me I had a very obvious stress fracture.  And, yes, he is very confident that letting that heal will resolve all my knee pain since I then will be able to walk fully on my foot. 

Now I get to wear this lovely black boot for at least 3 weeks.  It's a bit of an inconvenience.  And it makes an awkward thump as I walk.  And I sure do love to announce my presence in a loud thumping sort of way.  To help my lower back from getting sore due to the now differences in my leg height, they suggested wearing a higher heel for the time I have on the boot.  Oh, my.  They don't know who they are speaking to.  A high heel on one foot and this boot on the other in this blustery weather?  I'd surely break my other foot.  Maybe that's their ticket to repeat customers. 

My view of my inconvenience.

And, no, I have no intention of cheating this time.  I'll be good.  I'm off now to see if I can walk with a quieter thump.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weekend Fun (For Experiment's Sake)

One of the perks of having a tech savvy kid who has started his own blog is that he clues me in to setting changes that I can make to allow my pictures to post much easier.  Or so I hear.  So in the interest of seeing what I think about these changes, I'm going to just ramble on about some parts of our past weekend.  Hang onto your hats, this could be fun.
Oh, my.  I shouldn't have started this so late.  This could be so much fun.  I wish you could see all the fun I am having.  I'm so excited that I can do this:  draw a line through a word.   That's fun! 

And that funny line up there, it's called a jump break.  I don't know why I would need a jump break, but believe me I will find a way to use it and make it fun!

(So the funny line that I see doesn't show when I post.  I have no idea what it's for...)

Okay...onto the picture weekend fun:

Friday night was the high school Football game.  Homecoming game:  very fun.  Other than a very scary was a great night.

The side of Alex's head is the best I've been able to do!

Then Saturday came with cheer for the girls.  Beth's turn first: they cheered two games.

Beth with some of her sweet buddies.  I do love these girls!

Then it was Brenna's turn to cheer.  Go, Brenna!

(I interrupt this post to say that I LOVE this updated editing thing-a-ma-jig!  Yeah, blogspot!)

On Sunday, we realized it was going to be the last sunny weekend day for awhile, so we made a very impromptu trip to the pumpkin patch.  This was done between watching the Seahawks win masterfully and Alex's Sogo rehearsal, which gave us a whole 65 minutes.  Alex would have preferred to go to the box outside our local Safeway, but the girls really wanted to go pick one.  So I promised Alex I would only make him pose for one picture.  He was a good sport, even though not too eager.

So, while the kids posed...

...Brad went to stand in line.  Yep, he was in line long before we found any pumpkins.  Efficiency was the key word of the day.  Fun, yes.  But efficient fun.

Staying true to who she is, Brenna gathered all her possibilities, huddled them together, and then decided.

Meanwhile, Beth went for "bigger is better".

The girls happily posed for one more picture!

So there is a very rushed recap of some of our weekend highlights.  I'm so glad I experimented ~ I'm gonna have some kind of fun with these new features!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Candy Corn Kiss Chocolate Cookies

Here we are in October...the weather is finally acting in sync with the I thought this would be an appropriate recipe for today. I gotta be honest with you, I'm not a huge candy corn fan, so these don't really rock my world. But I saw these Kisses at Target last week, and thought they were so cute. I knew the kids would love them, but I didn't realize how much. I apparently have really denied Alex his "favorite candy" and it's "been years" since he's had candy corn. He let me know this tale of woe with all the drama and flair that he could muster. So he has been thrilled with these cookies. I prefer just the chocolate, of course. But they are really cute and festive, and I do have to love that in a cookie! This one's for you, Alex. I hope you all enjoy them a little bit too!

Candy Corn Kiss Chocolate Cookies

1 pkg. chocolate fudge cake mix
1/2 cup butter-flavor shortening (you can use butter, but the cookies will be a lot thinner)
2 eggs
powdered sugar
Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses

Mix together cake mix, shortening and eggs. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (use your cookie scoop that I know you have), and roll balls in powdered sugar. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place a kiss in the center of each cookie. Immediately remove from sheet onto cooling rack. These take awhile to cool, as the kiss will get all melty and then re-set.

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes for Christmas, only I use a mini York peppermint patty. So yummy. You can use any kind of cake mix/candy combination that you like!

There you go, Alex. The recipe is memorialized here!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Chocolate Chip Conspiracy???

So I've been pondering my conversation with my doctor yesterday. It all started out innocently enough. All I really needed was for him to review my labs, tell me that yes, my thyroid levels were holding fine and here's the refill for your meds. That's all. But he apparently was in a giving sort of mood, for he gave me more than that. Much more.

It can partly be summed up in a very simple word. Cholesterol. Not a bit surprising to me at all, my cholesterol is creepin up too high. "It's not bad," he said. "It's just not good." Those are fighting words to me! I don't like to be "not bad, just not good" at anything. Especially something inside me. Especially with this pesky family history lurking in the back - okay, front - of my mind. So we started the long and tedious conversation about cholesterol. What a tiring topic. I told him I know the right things to do in my mind, I just need to apply them. And I will. Try. I will try. But that wasn't enough for him.

"Tell me what you could do better with your diet." Oh, please. Do we really have time to get into all that?? I'm needing to eat more veggies. Yes, I know. I don't eat much red meat, so not a whole lot to eliminate there. But then I got brave and divulged my love for all things baked, specifically chocolate chip cookies. With real butter, of course. "Okay," he says, "so tell me about how many cookies per day we are talking about." WHAT?! Then he grinned and rubbed his forehead in an exasperated fatherly sort of way, and said, "I think that is the first time I have ever asked a patient that question. That question usually has something to do with one's alcohol use, not cookie use." I assured him I was not a daily chocolate-chip-cookie consumer. In my dreams.

I then had to listen to my doctor give me advice about improving my baking. He wanted to brainstorm with me ways I could still do what I love and make it not quite so offensive to my cholesterol. I appreciate the effort, doc, really I do. But just be my doctor. I'll let Paula Deen continue to be my recipe source.

This comes on the heel of 3 different people informing me that the price of chocolate chips is expecting to take a jump this winter because of some shortage of something vital to production of chocolate. Details, details.

So, I'm feeling a bit ganged up on in my little chocolate chip cookie world. In fact, I think my keyboard and fingers are in on it, too. I just tried to type "chocolate chip" and out came "chocolate hip". Coincidence? Typing skills? Chocolate chip conspiracy??

I then went on to be told that no, that swelling in my knee is not something that will likely just go away. He told me to not run for 3-4 weeks. Excuse me? This is getting my anxiety level up. First a discussion about baked goods and then telling me I shouldn't run.

Lastly, thanks to some family history provided by my brother, I am scheduled for a test I otherwise would be able to put off for 10 more years. Lovely. In this case, I guess 40 is the new 50. Or maybe 80, as I've just written an entire post complaining about a visit to the doctor.

I did not run today. Tomorrow? We'll see. I did not eat chocolate chip cookies today. Yet. Tomorrow? Again, we'll see. Maybe an upcoming Monday Menu will feature some kind of cholesterol-lowered chocolate chip cookie. I shudder at the thought, but...we'll see!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake

Hello, October! Thanks for bringing Fall with you!

Here is a yummy, yummy cake recipe that smells like Fall, tastes like Fall, and makes you all happy inside that there IS a Fall! This recipe comes from my Costco Connection magazine, of all things...and I'm so glad it caught my eye. It is a perfect piece of something to have with a hot mug of something. Make sure you eat the cake really adds to the yumminess! Enjoy:

Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake


1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

5 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. (I used 3 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla


4 TBSP butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

Butter and flour a 9x13 pan.

To prepare cake, beat both sugars and oil together until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add vanilla and blend. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg; add gradually to egg mixture, mixing just until blended. Add apples and nuts, and stir until well-combined. This is a thick batter! Scoop into pan and spread evenly.

Bake at 325 for 50-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took about 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan while you prepare the glaze:

To prepare the glaze, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add sugars and salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Add cream, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Poke holes all over the cake, using a toothpick or skewer. Pour the glaze evenly over the cake. Let it set for at least 10 minutes to let the caramel soak into the holes. Serve warm.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Flashback ~ Bobbing for Apples

Today I am taking a journey back to October of 2002. The kids were 7, 4, and 1...the girls on the verge of turning 5 and 2. We spent a good chunk of the day at Lattin's Cider Mill, feeding all the animals, picking out pumpkins, and of course, eating hot apple fritters. While we were eating, the kids curiously stared at the other kids bobbing for apples. Alex quickly assessed it as a competition, sizing up the errors that were made and the strategies that were used. Although it grossed me out in ways I cannot even find the words for (all these kids dunking their mouths into this big vat of water and apples? Was the vat last used to water the pigs?? Probably not, but this is where my mind goes.), I just imagined all the great pictures I could get of Alex insisting on getting an apple. I was right. He was great material that day. He was at this for a looong time. Strangers sitting and eating their fritters were quite amused at his determination to grab an apple in this vat of germs. I offered, several times, to just buy him an apple. He looked at me like I had a third eye and told me that wasn't the point. He was 7. Silly me.

Beth didn't quite get what he was doing. When we told her Alex wanted an apple, she kept going over and just pulling one out with her hand. We finally convinced her he wanted to pick one up with his mouth, so she went over and dunked her head as a show of solidarity. Naturally, this frustrated Alex, because it caused a ripple to run through the water that threw off his whole 39th attempt.

Finally, SUCCESS! If you'll look closely at the picture, you will understand our skepticism that he would be successful. And our laughter at his attempts. His strategy was to pinch the stem with his teeth. Again, he was 7. He had no top teeth. But, in true Alex form, his determination won out, and he got himself an apple. Soaked with cold water. A hard-earned snack for sure. He ate that apple, dripping with germs, sharing with his sisters. That part of the memory makes me cringe, but no worries...they survived just fine! Not even a sniffle followed that bobbing for germs. I mean, apples.

Brenna then decided that she wanted to give it a try. She gave it a few good tries, then in true princess form decided that the cold water on her face was just not worth it. But I love Alex leaning in with the encouragement.

Then Beth wanted to do it all by herself. She was just around the corner from 2. Of course she wanted to do it herself. The great thing about watching Beth was she was not even going for an apple. She'd just dunk her forehead in the water, stand up and grin at Alex. Then she'd dunk it again. Over and over. From her perspective, that's all her brother did, so that's what she did. She was not happy to be done. Again, she was almost 2. LOVE those ladybug boots with the purple leggings! Again, almost 2. Precious...
We are hoping to head out there this weekend for some apples and fritters. But there is no way in this virus infested world they are sticking their heads into a bucket of germs for the chance to "catch" an apple! We'll fill 'em up with fritters before they can even be tempted.